It's funny to look back on how action figure collecting has changed in the past two decades; once upon a time, McFarlane Toys were top dog, revolutionising the entire sphere of collecting before ToyBiz took the reins introducing super-articulation, only to be later lapped by Hasbro as they staked their claim with the same Marvel properties. At the time, a scrappy up-and-comer was NECA, who basically took a similar approach to McFarlane Toys of that era, grabbing the properties Todd couldn't (or wouldn't) and replicating the kind of high quality sculpts but with a little more articulation than the statues that were starting to weigh down the "action" in "action figures." One of their earliest lines was Hellraiser, which produced multiple terrific sets including their own takes on the Build-a-Figure; now, over a decade later, NECA is back for a fresh shot at the lead Cenobite himself, Pinhead.
Yearing to surpass the earthly limits of
pleasure and pain, Frank purchases a mysterious puzzle and inadvertantly opens a portal to hell when he solves it. His body is torn to pieces by the Cenobite residents of the other realm, but something of Frank lingers, waiting on the blood of others to return to life.
That's a nice recap of the first film, but shouldn't the text talk about Pinhead and not, for instance, a character who's not inside this box? The Dark Prince of Pain? The Angel of Suffering? Leviathan's Lord of the Damned? In the first World War, Captain Elliot Spencer witnessed many atrocities. His appetites were indulged, but it was through the Lament Configuration and the Order of the Gash that a world of experience beyond limits would open up to him and eventually become his domain. Now with his crown of pins embedded deep into his skull, he walks the corridors of hell and the nightmares and fantasies of the living.
As part of the Ultimates line, find Pinhead here with a brand-new and improved sculpt, and a modest boost of articulation. But let's start with that likeness, which is not a notable improvement over the original figure - this is still recognizably Pinhead - but with an impressively clean look. The effect of the small pins representing the nails in his head is just as great as it was previously. Further, this is the first Pinhead figure to include interchangeable
heads; the closed mouth face and a teeth-bearing grimace is appropriate to the character. The heads can popped off from the neck - grab them by the ears, so you don't bend any of the pins. The leather strap that's technically supposed to attach to the back of the character's scalp (on the real costume) stays connected to the body intact.
The sculpt does a great job of capturing the torn flesh and the leather that adorns his body. The work was done by
Kyle "Tankman" Windrix and Trevor "Nickname Pending" Grove. The detail in the clothing is far more intricate than the version from 17 years ago. It had bloody well better be! Plus, we get to see parts of the costume that have not been beheld by human eyes in ages unknown. Have you ever wondered what Pinhead's pants look like? "Like a xenomorph," it turns out. And he wears boots with fancy plates on the front of the shins. Which of those facts surprises you the most?
Another area of improvement is the paint. If you recall,
the 2003 figure looked a little too clean and pristine. The body had the color of something cold and dead, yes, but it was lacking any bloody mess around the strips of flesh dangling from his chest, or the pseudo-belly button where the rope ran through his stomach skin. The usual team of Geoffrey Trapp and John Wardell has really kicked things up here, making the torso look raw and awful, with blood cascading down the front of his apron as well and even staining his fingertips. The leather suit isn't flat black, getting a few brownish-grey accent spots, and even a little bit of purple on his lower legs.
In order to have the kind of excellent articulation expected of the Ultimates line, Pinhead has a moveable torso separate from the lower body, which to my mind doesn't look as good as the original; it's just too big a gap, essentially a corset with too much leeway. This leads down to the softgoods leather dress below, and while it's necessary as an improvement for the articulation, again I feel it suffers compares to the original;
very rarely do softgoods work on such small scale figures, and there's an artificial look to this figure that does not do it justice, even with the pattern printed on it to simulate texture.
Fortunately, that articulation does impress. Find Pinhead articulated with a balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders, those double-swivel/hinge elbows NECA loves so much these days, s/h wrists, a balljointed chest, another balljoint for the waist under that corset piece, swivel/hinge hips, swivel thighs, s/h knees (with the pad on the kneecap staying with the upper leg rather than moving with the shin), and s/h ankles, allowing a much higher range of poseability than before. Said softgoods dress allows a full range of movement compared to the preposed standing Pinheads we had previously. To accentuate the poses, the lower edge of skirt has a wire running through it, allowing you to pose it dynamically, or just create realistic wrinkles/folds when he's standing still.
Accessory-wise, Pinhead includes one of his
curved blades, bloodied appropriately, then a long slender knife, a similarly-bloodied hacksaw (which appears to be too small for his hand by any estimation), and finally a puzzle box. This time around the Lament Configuration looks much better, like more of a real item for Pinhead to wield. A second Lament Configuration, mid-opening, is also included, which looks very impressive, and is the kind of ingenuity one expects from the NECA Ultimates. Additionally, the knife and saw have hooks that allow you to hang them on Pinny's stomch-rope, which is exactly what we asked for from the previous figure!
So, the question here is that if you own the original Pinhead and associated Cenobites, is this upgrade worth it? To my mind, it is not, but in all honesty I don't think that's the point of this. While this isn't as impressive looking a Pinhead as the original figures, it is available rather than a difficult-to-track-down collector's item, as many of the original NECA figures are now tricky to get; updating it means it can be back on the shelf for collectors to get, and that's praiseworthy.